Some of you may already know that I am recently married! Just a few weeks ago, we had a destination wedding (for many reasons I won't bore you with!) in Mexico at The Royal Playa Del Carmen all-inclusive resort on Saturday, February 5th. About 20 of our closest friends and family traveled down to Playa Del Carmen, which is just south of Cancun, for a long weekend of fun in the sun. We arrived at the resort the evening of Wednesday, February 2nd, and left The Royal on Monday, February 7th. The Royal Playa Del Carmen was the perfect spot for our wedding, and all of our guests loved it. What we loved most about the resort was its fun, social vibe; there was always a lot going on, and the staff always went out of their way to make sure that everyone was having a good time. One couple who attended our destination wedding even purchased a timeshare while visiting, and it was their very first time there!
When we picked Playa Del Carmen, Mexico as our wedding location, we received a lot of feedback from friends and family that they didn't want to go down to Mexico because of the crime. Unfortunately, many people chose not to join us because of it, but there were a few that did come (rather nervously) anyway because they truly wanted to be there support us. By the end of the trip, those same guests were telling us that they had nothing to worry about all along, and that they were amazed at how nice and safe the resort was. I think it's safe to say that everyone was comfortable there, after all of the fuss!
Over the next month or so, I will be posting some reviews on our destination wedding experience. I wanted to make sure that I did this simply because I relied on reviews from other brides SO much while planning my own wedding last year. With that being said, here is my first review of our destination wedding location, The Royal Playa Del Carmen resort & spa in Mexico!
Arrival & Check-In
The Royal Playa Del Carmen offers an online check-in where you can check in on their website 48 hours before you are scheduled to arrive at the resort. This system offers more of an advantage to those who have booked a higher room category, as those guests are able to select their room location ahead of time. You are even able to see the view from the balcony or terrace from each individual room online. However, if you have booked a standard Jr. Suite, you can't select your room at this point, but you are able to check into your choice of beds, in a smoking or nonsmoking room.
When we originally booked our stay at The Royal, we requested a nonsmoking Jr. Suite Ocean View with a king-sized bed. We also wanted a room that was located in the same general vicinity as the rest of our guests, so we made sure that we checked in online as soon as we could. However, by the time we were able to log in, most of the rooms were already reserved (we found out later that ours was the most popular room category). Many of our wedding guests who had booked a higher room category like ours had a similar problem. A couple of our guests even ended up booking a smoking room instead of a nonsmoking, in exchange for a better suite location. Although we did hear from them later on that the smoking rooms didn't smell at all, really. Ultimately, we were able to snag suite 347 with a partial ocean view, located on the top floor in a building close to the ocean, but also beside a parking/street area. We were happy with the room that we ended up with, but I think that when we go back to The Royal, we'll definitely book a standard Jr. Suite. Our guests who booked a standard room generally had much better locations on the resort.
The majority of our guests shared the same Virgin America flight a couple of days later on Wednesday evening. When we arrived at The Royal Playa Del Carmen together, we mentioned that we were checking in for a wedding that weekend. Upon realizing that there was a larger group of us checking in at once, two representatives from the reception desk took us into a large ballroom to check in separately. We were served some beers and cocktails, and then it definitely got a little chaotic and disorganized from there. Some guests were helped right away, while others had given their passports to someone for check in purposes, and were left waiting while he/she hurried back and forth to the front desk area to check us into the system. I know that they were working hard and trying to make the check in process smoother for everyone, but it kind of backfired.
Dale and I weren't helped for a while, really, until our Concierge, Veronique, arrived about 10 minutes in to help out. Once Veronique arrived, she really took charge and made sure that we were taken care of. She graciously pulled us aside, checked us in and went over all of the details regarding the restaurants, dress codes and our room location. Veronique was a pleasure to work with, and always went out of her way to help us. We ended up going to see her a few times during our trip; she provided restaurant recommendations for our rehearsal dinner, then later made a reservation at the offsite restaurant we selected and gave us directions on how to get there. Any time we had questions that we needed answered, Veronique was there to help.
- All of the rooms were very nice, clean and well kept. There was a decent amount of space; comparable, if not more room than most of the hotel rooms that I've seen in the states. We were able to see and compare the standard Jr. Suite and swim up rooms to our Ocean View suite, and the room size never really changes much amongst the three room categories. Additionally, I think it's worth mentioning that the "Ocean View" rooms aren't a full ocean view unless you get an "Ocean Front." Some rooms only give you a tiny section of an ocean view at the horizon.
- The bathroom in our room (which had a sink, toilet and shower) was on the small side. But there was a larger vanity area with another sink and mirrors connected to the bathroom, which is convenient if you're sharing a room with someone.
- The Jacuzzi bathtub is located out in the middle of the hotel room on an elevated platform, in between the bed and the balcony/terrace. Your bathing privacy is obviously a bit limited, but the tub was large and pretty nice. Most of us found a gross film in our tubs after the water had drained, most likely from the jets, so we always felt like we had to shower off afterward.
- Our balcony was an average size, with a couple of chairs and a small table. Some of the rooms on the first floors also had hammocks that you could hang up on the terrace. We were sort of jealous that ours didn't have one!
- The beds were nice and comfortable, with soft sheets and plenty of pillows. We actually had our choice of pillow types when we checked in, and both ended up selecting the tempur-pedic pillows, which we enjoyed.
- The mini bar area had a ton of beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), but we thought it was lacking food and snacks. This wasn't too big of a deal, since we could always order room service when we were hungry, but it would have been nice to have a few more snacks in there to nibble on.
All of the food at The Royal Playa Del Carmen was absolutely delicious. Even the room service was good! We have actually been to one other all-inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas, and we did not like the food there. We were concerned that all of the all-inclusive resorts in Mexico would be similar, but we were very pleasantly surprised by all of the delicious offerings at The Royal! The "Asian Fusion" restaurant, Asiana was very popular among our guests, as well as the French-Spanish restaurant, Maria Marie. Pelicano's has a great patio that makes it a good lunch spot, and Spice has a delicious and expansive breakfast buffet.
We also had the opportunity to try the Chef's Plate, which is a smaller dinner restaurant only available to guests staying in the higher room categories. Our room technically didn't qualify; however, we were able to get a reservation because we were getting married there. The restaurant is small, there are a very limited amount of reservations available (since the dinner is 7-8 courses) and they don't allow more than four guests to sit together at one table, which keeps the ambiance mellow. The menu is different each night, as it is created special by the chef there, but it usually has some sort of theme attached to it so you have a general idea of what to expect. Personally, my husband and I were not at all impressed with the food there. It was the only restaurant at The Royal that we didn't enjoy. I like to think that we are able to enjoy the finer restaurants every once in a while, but this one just felt like it was trying too hard. The food was not very flavorful, and not at all satisfying. We went up to our room later that evening and ordered room service! Not worth the extra effort, in my opinion.
Now, most importantly, the drinks. It seemed like both of the all-inclusive resorts where we stayed were light pourers, but The Royal was definitely the more generous of the two. Personally, I wasn't a huge fan of the blended drinks, which were too sweet and tasted like a slurpee. Our favorite cocktail there was the Mai Thai, which was just perfect. The resort is also generous with their shots of tequila and bottles of champagne, which we all came to appreciate (our other honeymoon resort wanted to CHARGE us for a bottle of champagne!).
Beach & Pools
The main pool area was expansive, located in the center of the resort. We had a little bit of trouble getting lounge chairs next to the pool, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I have seen it at other resorts. The pools there are on the cooler side (I don't think it's heated), which none of us really minded since it was warm there most of the time. When we did get chilly, we went to the jacuzzi, which was conveniently connected to the main pool. The jacuzzi was unique because it was definitely large enough to fit many people without having to squeeze in, and the water wasn't too hot where you couldn't stay in it for an extended period of time.
In addition to the main pool area, there was also another smaller "river-like" pool beside it located closer to the beach. This pool housed the swim up bar, and also served as the swim-up pool for a designated portion of hotel suites. It was never very crowded, and it was usually quieter and more private than the main pool area.
I actually selected Playa Del Carmen because it was supposed to have some of the nicest beaches in Mexico. The beach was absolutely beautiful, and it definitely did not disappoint! The water there is a gorgeous turquoise color, the sand is white and powdery and the beach is very clean. I didn't have any complains, except that my husband did cut his foot on a rock when he was swimming in the ocean one day. No one else seemed to have any problems though, so he might have just been lucky! The beach area was usually crowded, since it is still a public beach located in the center of Playa Del Carmen. There are also several resorts on the same strip of beach, but it wasn't crowded enough to prevent us from spending time there and enjoying ourselves. The lounge chairs designed for The Royal guests were pretty difficult to come by, and be warned, some women do like to sunbathe topless.
If lounging by the pool and the beach wasn't enough, though, the resort had a full schedule of live entertainment and activities. The wedding kept all of us pretty busy, so most of us weren't able to participate in any of the activities. A couple of my wedding guests chose to ride the jet skis out on the beach, which they raved about. The resort also offers one complimentary scuba diving lesson in their smaller, designated scuba pool located on the newer end of the resort. No one I knew took a lesson, but my brother, who is already licensed, did opt to go scuba diving, and had a great experience diving off the coast of Cozumel. Playa is the place to snorkel and scuba dive, by the way, so I highly recommend it!
Staff & Service
In my opinion, the staff and service at The Royal is what makes sets it apart from the rest. Everyone in our party kept commenting on how nice and helpful everyone was; each and every employee we crossed paths with went out of their way to help us, and we never walked by one person who didn't say "hello" with a smile. The housekeeping and room service was awesome, and quick! We would leave our room for one hour to have breakfast, and our room would be spotless by the time we returned. We were always surprised with some sort of animal made out of towels or rose petals left on the bed, too, which was cute.
Honestly, I think we were a bit spoiled at The Royal, because when we did change resorts for our honeymoon (another review on that resort coming soon!), we noticed every single time someone didn't say, "Hi" to us like the employees at The Royal always did.
Note: Our wedding ceremony and reception was held at The Royal Playa Del Carmen, as well, but I decided to split up my reviews to keep them from getting too long. I'll be posting a seperate review of our experience actually planning and hosting our wedding at The Royal next Monday, the 7th, so stay tuned!